Ink-stained wretches, arise!

I don’t know much about the Globe & Mail’s strategy for dominating the National Newspaper Awards, but it’s working. They received an outlandish 24 nominations for the highest honours in Canadian fishwrap this year. And 23 of them are probably rock solid! But I believe there’s a problem with the one they’re proudest of—at least, it’s the first piece they mention in their own story on the nominations, and the first item on the list of links they have attached.

I refer to Ken Dryden’s colourful, typically Drydenesque 3,000-word essay on concussions in ice hockey. It appeared in the Globe’s Oct. 1 edition, and there’s the wrinkle: the same essay appeared on Bill Simmons’ Grantland.com subsite for ESPN, where it is dated Sept. 30. The NNAs are intended for original content written specifically for Canadian newspapers, as Rule 1 of the competition reflects:

To be eligible, an entry must have been published first in 2011 by a Canadian daily newspaper —whether in print or online—in English or French.

The Globe has not yet responded on the record to a request for comment. (The Dryden essay may also have a problem under Rule 3 if the lawyer-goaltender was paid by both ESPN and the Globe for the copy.)

I noticed yesterday that the Dryden piece was not original to the Globe, and my initial instinct was not to make a big deal of it. Anyone who’s been a freelancer as long as I was has an overdeveloped resistance to offending even the most unlikely future employer. But then I thought: as if Ken Dryden really gives a crap whether he wins a “Newspaper Award”? Five Six Stanley Cup rings and two pensions aren’t enough?

The letter of the rule isn’t the only issue here. These awards are supposed to be a morale boost for professionals who do good work on deadline. I’m not sure the net effect of journalism awards is positive, but the explicit idea behind them is to encourage support for ambitious journalism—to bestir editors to big projects, to provide incentives for applying plenty of resources to breaking news, and to buy time and column-inches for individuals to work on the biggest stories of their careers. In that light, I don’t see the point of nominating Ken Dryden for such an award at all, and especially not for a piece that got sold twice after being written at leisure, as a rich, influential man’s intervention in a policy debate.

Dryden is competing with one of the Globe’s own sportswriters for the shiny bauble in the Sports category. Some other professional inside or outside the Globe, someone to whom an NNA nom would have literal hard cash value, has already been denied. I can’t be the only one irked about this. In fact, Dryden is such a nice guy and has such a keen sense of fair play that I suspect he’d be on my side.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.